A new hangar has been opened at Exeter International Airport, marking a new era for Aviation Engineering in the South West.
The Flybe Walker Hanger, the first to be built at Exeter since the 1940s, is the only dedicated regional MRO in the UK and will host Flybe Aviation Services, one of the world’s largest providers of regional aircraft engineering services.
As one of the largest private manufacturing facilities in the South West, the new hanger will boost employment in the area and further consolidates Exeter’s burgeoning economy and position as a UK centre for industry.
The hangar and MRO, built in partnership with Exeter International Airport and the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWERDA), was officially opened by Sir Digby Jones, CBI Chairman and the UK voice of business. Sir Digby Jones heralded the opening of the hanger as a key move for the South West, as the £12m investment creates an additional 500 skilled jobs in the region, 200 of which have already been recruited. The hanger will also expand future development possibilities for the travel industry from Exeter International Airport.
The £12m investment, partially funded with aid from SWERDA, has created industry leading facilities for Flybe’s regional aviation services business. The hangar is flexible enough that it can accommodate not only the current fleet of regional aircraft but has been future-proofed to cope with much larger aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and the Embraer 195 which are currently on order for Flybe. On average it is expected that the hangar will have a throughput of 110 aircraft a year, of which 75% are non-Flybe aircraft.
As one of the largest private sector employers in the South West, and one of the largest private sector businesses headquartered in the South West, Flybe has helped transform the airport Exeter into one of the fastest growing regional airports in the UK. From a traffic level is 80,000 passengers in 2003/04, Flybe’s passenger carryings at Exeter in 2004/05 were 350,000, and the airline is forecasting 625,000 in 2005/06 and 850,000 in 2006/07. Research suggests that Flybe contributed £137million to the South West economy in 2005.
Jim French, Flybe Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: “The opening is a significant event for Flybe and the South West.The hangar directly meets the requirements set out in the Government’s Aviation White Paper. We are investing in the South West, developing regional aviation services outside the over heated South East, creating employment and expanding regional airline services.At the same time we are ensuring that we have efficient and cost effective state-of-the-art maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities allowing us to provide the best possible services to our passengers.”
“We have chosen to handle all our own maintenance, which allows us to keep control of the work, rather than outsourcing to competitors or overseas centres. We know that by handling this in-house we can guarantee the quality, cost and turnaround times, which benefits our scheduling and efficiency,” added Mr French.
The hangar building will house all Flybe’s HQ-based maintenance and operational staff. The MRO employs 550 engineers working 24-hours a day 365-days a year, ensuring that all Flybe’s aircraft are kept operational. In addition to the main building extensive work has been carried out to the apron and runways. The facility is an accredited BAe Systems Service Centre and is the Bombardier European Dash 8 Regional Service Facility.